Drumbeat: December 10, 2010

Infographic of the Day: Happiness Comes at a Price

What drives all that happiness and woe? As you might have guessed, the economy has a lot to do with it.

…But here is where The Happy Planet Index starts looking a bit grim. The flip side of being rich and content is that you’re devouring resources at the same time. Amorphous things such as a fulfilling job and bright economic prospects come at a profound cost to the planet. As we get rich, our carbon footprints swell, and our damage to the planet increases.

Oil Gains a Second Day After China’s Imports Rise, U.S Jobless Claims Drop

Oil rose for a second day in New York on signs that Chinese demand will withstand measures to slow the economy and that U.S. consumption is recovering.

Futures narrowed their weekly decline after China said November crude imports surged and the International Energy Agency raised its 2011 oil demand forecast for a third month. A U.S. government report yesterday showed jobless claims dropped more than forecast. China’s central bank said it will raise the amount the nation’s lenders must hold as reserves from Dec. 20.

Gas prices on track for unseasonable spike

Motorists, brace yourselves for a lump of coal this holiday season: higher-priced gasoline.

Nationwide, a gallon of regular unleaded gas averaged $2.977 on Friday and more than $3 a gallon in 20 states. That’s up nearly 10 cents the past week and 34 cents higher than December 2009, AAA spokesman Troy Green says.

China November Crude Imports Jump by 26% as Refiners Boost Fuel Production

China, the world’s biggest energy user, increased net imports of crude oil by 26 percent in November from a month earlier as refineries ramped up processing rates to ease a diesel shortage.

OPEC May Have to Act if Oil Gets to $100, Secretary General Says in Quito

Oil prices of $100 a barrel may indicate “something wrong with fundamentals” in the market and lead OPEC to act, said Abdalla El-Badri, the organization’s secretary-general.

Gold, Copper, Oil, Corn Will Extend Gains Next year, Morgan Stanley Says

Commodities including copper, gold, crude oil, corn and soybeans will extend gains next year as emerging markets drive global demand while supplies tighten, Morgan Stanley said.

Natural Gas Prices May Rise Next Year on Lower Production

Natural gas prices may rebound next year as producers cut output for the first time in six years amid record stockpiles and an expanding U.S. economy.

A 20 percent drop in prices this year will contribute to a decline in drilling for the fuel sold to factories, power plants and homeowners, the Energy Department said in its monthly Short- Term Energy Outlook on Dec. 7. Output will average 62.01 billion cubic feet a day in 2011, down from a record of 62.09 billion this year, the department estimated.

With oil prices around $90, recovery is over a barrel

The “recovery” gained another enemy this week when the price of oil hit $90 a barrel on Tuesday (it was trading around $88 this morning). Higher oil prices translate into bigger costs for American households and the many petroleum-based products they use. This benchmark has long been seen by many economists as a point when oil prices start to harm the U.S. economy. They also are one of the biggest wild cards in the Federal Reserve’s bet that deflation — or at least disinflation — are the big dangers, rather than inflation.

Beware $90 oil

With high unemployment, weak consumer spending and falling home prices, what else could possibly slow America’s economic recovery? Oil prices.

IEA Raises 2011 Global Oil Demand Forecast for a Third Month, Citing China

The International Energy Agency raised its 2011 global crude oil demand forecast for a third month on consumption gains in North America and China.

Crude use worldwide will average 88.8 million barrels a day next year, about 260,000 barrels more than its previous forecast, the Paris-based adviser said today in its monthly Oil Market Report. Increasing demand could put pressure on OPEC to boost supply early next year, the IEA said.

IEA and OPEC differ on need for more oil supply

(Reuters) – Two of the world’s most influential oil forecasters gave contrasting outlooks for 2011 on Friday, with the consumer’s watchdog anticipating robust demand and producer group OPEC saying supply was adequate.

OPEC Compliance With Output Quota Was Stable at 54% in November, IEA Says

OPEC’s compliance with record supply cuts was little changed last month as production declines in five of its member countries offset increases in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran, the International Energy Agency said.

IEA Says OPEC Oil Capacity to Dip in 2011, Rise After

OPEC’s oil production capacity will dip next year then rise steadily through 2012 to 2015, according to a monthly report from the International Energy Agency.

The daily production capacity for all 12 members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is forecast at 35.50 million barrels for this year, 35.22 million barrels for 2011 and 36.94 million barrels for 2015, the IEA said today.

IEA: Risk Of Chinese Overheating After “Astonishing” Oil Growth

PARIS -(Dow Jones)- Citing “astonishing” year-on-year growth in Chinese oil demand in October 2010, the International Energy Agency warned Friday that the Chinese economy was in danger of overheating and said food prices have risen more steeply than reflected by official Chinese statistics.

“The strength of China’s oil demand is consistent with other indicators suggesting that the economy is in danger of overheating,” the IEA said in its monthly Oil Market Report. “Not only does GDP growth continue to hover around the 10% mark, but inflation is also creeping up.”

Nomura Says IEA May Be Overestimating Outlook for Non-OPEC Crude Supplies

The International Energy Agency may be overestimating the outlook next year for oil supply excluding crude produced by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, according to Nomura International Ltd.

IEA Predicts 18-Month Delay in Development of New Fields in Gulf of Mexico

The International Energy Agency forecast the development of new oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico will be delayed by 12 to 18 months, more than previously estimated, because of restrictions after the BP Plc spill.

Chevron hikes spending 20 pct in search of growth

Chevron Corp , the second-largest U.S. oil company, will increase spending by a fifth to $26 billion in 2011, with 85 percent going to exploration and production as the industry seeks out new sources of growth.

Sinopec Agrees to Purchase Occidental’s Argentina Unit for $2.45 Billion

China Petrochemical Corp., Asia’s biggest refiner, agreed to buy Occidental Petroleum Corp.’s Argentine oil and gas unit for $2.45 billion, signaling the country’s appetite for energy assets shows no sign of easing.

BG Group announces update on Tupi and Guará fields, Santos Basin, offshore Brazil

BG Group today announced an update on the Tupi and Guará fields in the Santos Basin, offshore Brazil. The update relates to the first two Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessels on the Tupi field and the first FPSO on the Guará field.

Russian foreign minister doubts NATO sincerity after Baltic leak

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has expressed concern over NATO’s integrity after the revelation of the military alliance’s plans on defending the Baltic states against Russia.

The latest batch of U.S. embassy cables released by WikiLeaks shows NATO drew up plans in January to defend the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania against any possible attack by Russia.

WikiLeaks cables: Oil giants squeeze Chávez as Venezuela struggles

Venezuela’s tottering economy is forcing Hugo Chávez to make deals with foreign corporations to save his socialist revolution from going broke.

The Venezuelan president has courted European, American and Asian companies in behind-the-scenes negotiations that highlight a severe financial crunch in his government.

Sanctions Against Iran

Sanctions are ultimately self-defeating as a means for achieving political coercion and persuasion. They are based on a flawed assumption that the affected party will make decisions based on a limited cost-benefit analysis. At the very most, they can be expected to elicit a temporary and tactical retreat by Iran – perhaps making it suspend enrichment for a few months or agree to more intrusive inspections. What they singularly fail to do is to persuade Iran to make any strategic decisions regarding its nuclear program. With peak oil having already arrived, the world needs access to Iranian hydrocarbon reserves more than ever: this is a country with the fourth and second largest oil and gas reserves, respectively. Applying sanctions because of some perceived fear of a threshold nuclear weapons capacity makes little real sense.

Shell could lose 80% acreage in Nigeria: WikiLeaks

LAGOS – Royal Dutch Shell said last year if Nigeria’s oil reforms went ahead as planned the company could lose 80 percent of its offshore oilfield acreage, according to U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

U.S.: Chevron must keep pipeline closed

SALT LAKE CITY, Dec. 9 (UPI) — Oil giant Chevron Corp. may not reopen its troubled east-bench pipeline in Utah because it is unfit for life, property and the environment, a U.S. agency said.

“Other areas of this pipeline could experience” a leak similar to the Dec. 1 spill that spewed 500 barrels of crude oil at Red Butte Garden and Arboretum in the foothills of the Wasatch Range in Salt Lake City, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said.

N.Y. Objects to Release of Multistate Fracking Rules

A regional regulatory agency that oversees the Delaware River watershed issued proposed regulations on Thursday for natural gas drilling that are intended to bring some uniformity to various rules governing the controversial type of gas extraction that combines horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing.

More new cars get 40 mpg, but ‘cheap’ gas keeps buyers away

Automakers are offering more conventional cars that cross the 40-miles-per-gallon threshold in highway driving, but relatively low gas prices continue to hold off buyers.

Feds pull high-speed rail funds from Wisconsin, Ohio

(CNN) – The Obama administration is pulling back $1.2 billion in funding for high-speed rail projects in Ohio and Wisconsin after the governors-elect in both states vowed to kill the proposed train lines.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that he would re-direct the funds to other states, with California set to receive the largest sum.

12 Fastest Growing Economies of 2011

Not surprisingly energy continues to play a key role. We expect this trend to continue with the advent of “peak oil” and the continuing upward trend in oil and natural gas prices. Countries like Qatar and Azerbaijan with their huge natural gas and oil reserves will continue to boom.

Medgrid to Study Developing a Mediterranean Power Grid for Solar Energy

A group of utilities, grid operators and equipment makers plans to study developing a network spanning the Mediterranean Sea to link Europe to North African solar-energy projects.

Medgrid, to based in Paris, will carry out feasibility studies during three years for a grid that may start importing electricity to Europe by 2020, it said today in a statement.

U.S Renewable Energy And Energy Efficiency Export Initiative

This week the US launched its latest salvo in the renewable energy title fight. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today joined seven other U.S. government agencies in launching a coordinated effort to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency exports – the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Export Initiative.

A Primer for the Post-Carbon World

“When it comes to controversial issues, population is in a class by itself. Activist working to reduce global population growth are attacked by the Left for supposedly ignoring human-rights issues or glossing over Western over-consumption. They are attacked by the Right for supposedly favoring widespread abortion and promiscuity. Others think the problem will be solved by technology.

One thing is certain: The planet and its resources are finite and it can not support an infinite population of humans or any other species. A second thing is also certain: The issue of population is too important to avoid just because it is controversial.”

Thus begins a fantastic, and chilling, chapter entitled “Population: The Multiplier of Everything Else” by WIlliam Ryerson of the Population Media Center in a must-read book entitled The Post-Carbon Reader. edited by Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch. Heinberg is well-known for popularizing the Peak Oil concept and is Senior Fellow-in-Residence at the Post Carbon Institute.

American Energy Policy IV: The Price of Transition

Take a look at the following presentation about our energy future as seen by a very influential professor at Penn State, Dr. Frank Clemente. His vision of the future reveals the true impact of overpopulation. The study focuses mainly upon Coal and Clean Coal Technologies. It’s a shock. What he says about natural gas from shale is quite a shock, too. He writes off any renewables as largely a waste of time. He sees nuclear power as a “ship that already sailed”. He doesn’t say too much about oil, since Peak Oil has already happened.

Peak oil needs to be investigated along with alternatives

I find the environmental movement to be something of an enigma. On one hand, I believe that the majority of believers in global warming and smart growth are people who sincerely care about the environment, but on the other hand I’m convinced that the environmental movement has far more to do with money and politics than with the environment. Nothing represents that dichotomy of thought quite as much as the theory of peak oil.

The Earth-Buster Sale

We do this every year and it’s not a bad life. But this year I do feel like singing “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” Because there is – you noticed? – a dispiriting return to the corporate Christmas by many consumers. The myth of the single oil-based economy still glories in its unstoppable ads. On the international level there wasn’t a leader who explained during the recession that there was an alternative to it. Obama sure didn’t.

The rebirth of the rebirth of distance

Directly relevant to Rubin’s express concerns is the frequently cited Death of Distance, a book by Economist editor Frances Cairncross, originally published in 1997 and revised in 2001. It initially focussed upon the impact of the telecommunications revolution.

For a while after the 2008 financial crash, it looked like Rubin’s dire predictions (that the spiralling oil price would resurrect the spectre of distance by increasing the transport costs of imported goods) had been at best premature.

Carolyn Baker: Transition: The Sacred, The Scared, And The Scarred

All of this leads up to a statement by Rob that I find appalling: “I get a sense from how Michael builds his case in his article that he has drawn together all the very worst forecasts of everything and used that to underpin his case for ‘Deep Transition’.” Yet in just a few sentences below, Rob admits that he finds the facts regarding climate change “terrifying.” He then states: “I don’t think that one needs to exaggerate threats and try and terrify people into a sense of urgency. The facts are motivating enough on their own. Indeed there is lots of research showing that bombarding people with terrifying information is far more likely to lead to a Flight/Fight/Freeze response than to constructive engagement. It is rarely an effective approach to engaging people in my experience.”

This reveals a reality that for me is profoundly disturbing among some members of Transition initiatives, namely, an unwillingness to deeply analyze the meaning of the word “transition.”

11 reasons for S.F. to get jolly

Pat Villano’s “The Peak” is part of the “Peak Oil” art show at City Hall.

Oyster Creek Reactor to Close by 2019

The Oyster Creek nuclear reactor in New Jersey will be shut down by 2019, at least 10 years before its license expires, in a deal with state environmental regulators that will allow it to operate until then without building costly cooling towers, its owner said on Wednesday.

Toxic Soil Shows Rigors of Nuclear Cleanup

RICHLAND, Wash.—Officials at the federal government’s Hanford nuclear cleanup site here met Thursday to discuss the discovery of dangerously radioactive soil, in the latest example of how unexpected challenges have beset nuclear cleanup efforts nationwide.

The contamination discovered last month here in eastern Washington state under a disused research building is so radioactive it could kill on contact, said Don McBride, a radiation expert with the federal contractor cleaning up the building.

France Suspends Solar Energy Developments for Less-Than-Expected 3 Months

France suspended solar-energy projects for a less-than-expected three months as it studies potential subsidy cuts and measures to limit growth in the industry after a surge in developments.

Age of sail boats inspires green solutions

London (CNN) — With its long hull, towering masts and expansive sails, it resembles a schooner from the 19th century. But fitted with a series of high-tech features, this so-called “sail ship” is designed to cut carbon emissions on the high seas today.

Climate-Change Funds Shift Focus From Wind, Solar

The poor performance of some sectors aiming to slow climate change is pushing money managers to cast further afield for investments that both carry green credentials and are likely to post better returns.

Some renewable-energy stocks, such as those in solar and wind industries, have fallen spectacularly in recent years, belying hopes that they were poised to break out.

E.P.A. Delays Tougher Rules on Emissions

The Obama administration is retreating on long-delayed environmental regulations — new rules governing smog and toxic emissions from industrial boilers — as it adjusts to a changed political dynamic in Washington with a more muscular Republican opposition.

India’s Call for Binding Climate Commitments Sparks Outcry

India’s call on all nations to agree to binding commitments to battle climate change sparked an outcry from an opposition politician and environmental group that called it a policy reversal.

Africa: Region Urges Release to Copenhagen Pledged “Fast-Track Funds”

Addis Ababa — Africa’s negotiating team on climate change has called for urgent release of the $30 billion “fast-track funds” pledged at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference to help continent grapple with global warming.

China, India hold out over cuts

CANCUN, Mexico: Nations locked in climate change talks yesterday were looking to build an agreement with wriggle room but with enough momentum to carry forward the fight to reduce carbon emissions.

Russia to pull out of Kyoto deal

Russia opposes the renewal of the Kyoto protocol and will not sign an extension to the climate treaty, Russian envoy Alexander Bedritsky said on Friday.

“Russia will not participate in the second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol,” he told the UN climate change conference in Cancun.

Israeli forest fire sign of climate change: study

Israel’s worst-ever forest fire earlier this month confirms predictions on the impact of global warming in the Mediterranean basin, according to one of Israel’s leading climate experts.

“The fire disaster in the Carmel Mountains near Haifa is a taste of the future,” Guy Pe’er, co-author of Israel’s National Report on Climate Change, said on Wednesday.

Greenland Ice Sheet Flow Driven by Short-Term Weather Extremes, Not Gradual Warming, Research Reveals

ScienceDaily — Sudden changes in the volume of meltwater contribute more to the acceleration — and eventual loss — of the Greenland ice sheet than the gradual increase of temperature, according to a University of British Columbia study.